The Good: Extraordinarily funny, even upon many repeat viewings, Great animation, stories, and guest stars
The Bad: None, this is a perfect season and boxed set
The Basics: With a phenomenal set of episodes with enduring humor and great bonus features, The Simpsons - The Complete Fifth Season is a must-own on DVD.
When The Simpsons does something right, it truly goes all out. In the case of the first three seasons, the show was so over-replayed in syndication that devoted fans had pretty much memorized the episodes, making the DVD sets a poor investment. Season four (reviewed here!) is a mostly solid season, and a good DVD set, but even it has its duds. The Simpsons - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD becomes the first perfect season of The Simpsons and a must-own DVD set for anyone who loves great comedy.
The fifth season of The Simpsons is a twenty-two episode boxed set featuring commentaries on all of the episodes, deleted scenes, a celebration of the 100th episode (in the form of a look back with James L. Brooks), and a couple of easter eggs. Unlike earlier seasons (and most seasons that follow), season five had no missteps in the episodes and they hold up very well over ten viewings (which, in case you haven't checked out my reviews of the earlier four seasons, I operate under the assumption most fans of The Simpsons who watched the show in first run and syndication have seen the first seven or eight seasons worth of shows about ten times each). Because of this, The Simpsons - The Complete Fifth Season" makes a safe buy for a fan of The Simpsons who may or may not have started their DVD collection. Because the show is not serialized, there's no worry about jumping into the series at this point, either!
In this boxed set, viewers are treated to the music of the "B Sharps," (Homer's barbershop quartet), an appearance by Sideshow Bob, Marge fleeing Springfield with her new friend, Bart becoming a Junior Camper (a parody of the Boy Scouts), and Lisa fighting against the insidious stereotypes of the doll Malibu Stacy (a thinly veiled Barbie doll). This is a season that is devoted almost entirely to Homer and Bart Simpson (Lisa is cut back to a single a-plot this season), but the situations the family gets into are phenomenal. As always, the show has a Halloween special ("Treehouse of Horror IV," which has never looked better than it does on this DVD!) and it has guest voices from celebrities.
Unlike some of the previous seasons, the guest voices are used more in a supporting capacity this season, rather than to drum up an audience. Famous guest stars in this season include the voices of Michelle Pfiffer, Werner Klemperer, Sam Neil, James Woods, and Kathleen Turner. As well, some celebrities appear as animated versions of themselves and those individuals are musicians George Harrison, The Ramones, James Brown, Robert Goulet, James Taylor, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and entertainer Conan O'Brien. It's a solid line-up.
Because the show is episodic (most episodes do not have consequences - a fact mocked well in "Homer Loves Flanders" - so events do not have ramifications and usually characters do not learn from their mistakes), the characters do not so much grow as they experience new adventures. Still, it's important to see where the season finds them and this is what the fifth season is about:
Homer Simpson - With his usual idiocy, Homer keeps his job at the Nuclear Power Plant, but also becomes a barbershop quartet singer, a college graduate (sort of), a blackjack dealer, a vigilante, a teacher and an astronaut. As well, he befriends (for a time) Ned Flanders, Apu, and a coworker and he tries to be a father-figure to his son by joining him on a camping trip with the Junior Campers,
Marge Simpson - Relegated mostly to a support role in this season, she befriends a new neighbor and has a "Thelma and Louise"-type adventure/bonding experience. She becomes addicted to slot machines and furious at Homer for revealing secrets from their marriage to the citizens of Springfield,
Maggie Simpson - She gets Mr. Burns's old teddy bear, Bobo, which offers the family a chance at riches. Outside that, she's wallpaper this season,
Lisa Simpson - After a strong previous season, Lisa is relegated to a supporting role this season, save when she develops her own doll to take on the sexist stereotypes embodied by Malibu Stacy (with hilarious consequences),
and Bart Simpson - Skipping class, he witnesses a beating, gets Skinner fired as principal of the elementary school, and becomes Mr. Burns's heir. As well, he gets an elephant named Stampy, becomes a one-hit wonder with the catch phrase "I didn't do it," starts his own casino in the treehouse, and gets wasted on an all-syrup slushie and joins the Junior Campers as a result. He also becomes the town's role model and the target of Sideshow Bob's rage.
This season continues with Homer in the spotlight with eight a-plots (the main plot of the episode) and three b-plots (the secondary plot of an episode), though Bart's position in the stories comes back a bit from the prior two seasons as he gets eight episodes as well (though he has no solid b-plots this season). Lisa and Maggie take a back seat with only an episode apiece, Marge has the front story of two episodes. Mr. Burns dominates the background this season, with a strong presence in four episodes. Secondaries like Principal Skinner have more of a role this season as well.
Try as I might, I cannot come up with a flaw in this season, making it a must-own boxed set.
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© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.